Popular in Blacks in Urban America
Popular in African Studies
This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Emma Gat on Monday February 23, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to AFRS345 at San Francisco State University taught by Dr. Akom in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 104 views. For similar materials see Blacks in Urban America in African Studies at San Francisco State University.
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Date Created: 02/23/15
Too many young black men are trapped in a horri c cycle that includes discrimination unemployment poverty crime prison and early death When they act out violently or are involved in dramatic crimes that make the news the repercussions for the general image of the young black male can be far reaching Strongly identi ed with violent criminality by skin color alone the anonymous young black male in public is often viewed rst and foremost was fear and suspicion Others are typically don t want to know him and in public seek distance from him and those who resemble him Aware of his place as an outsider he may try to turn the tables when he can expressing himself on his own terms behavior that is viewed as threatening oppositional and justi able given their initial reactions The young ghetto male s presentation is often consciously offputting or thuggish a master status that overpowers positive qualities Trying to gain respect many value this image as part of a hip style that deters insults and attacks in the local neighborhood But the image has unintended consequences giving the potential employers reason to discriminate in favor of less threatened workers An employer may consciously exclude the stereotypical black ghetto male contributing to his persistent joblessness and desperation As these circumstances become more widespread the negative stereotype is perpetuated and strengthened leading to more suspicion discrimination and marginalization In the past the stereotypical hardworking factory man or construction worker and his female partner most often accepted the social conventions of their time In many respects society was more homogeneous and the system of race relations gave quiet support to an oppressive racial order of white domination in almost all areas of life In the 1950s more militant black people emerged to challenge the system collectively via the civil rights movement Formerly moderate Americans both black and white lost their innocence Yet in those last days of the industrial era black men continued to work hard in factories and on construction while their wives worked as domestics dishwashers nurses aides and janitors Though menial these jobs give a certain stability to the poor innercity community even as dissatisfaction with the socioeconomic position of black people was rising In time this situation gave way to the postindustrial era with its recurrent recessions major economic shifts from manufacturing to service and high technology and that the departure from the innercity of relatively highpaying and low skill jobs through deindustrialization and globalization Large portions of safety nets like child welfare and social programs chipped away The union movement atrophied becoming increasingly ineffective Working people black and white came to realize that they were on their own and had to ght forjobs and services The militancy gave way to cultural nationalism in the urban ghetto Quickly the image in stereotype of the black innercity male was all of a sudden not one of docility Rather it was rapidly transformed into a portrait of militancy mixed with anger directed towards the system of white domination in general and white people in particular In the minds of many whites the gure of the Black male became more and more mysterious dangerous and fearsome Occasionally he would act out this image talking back to whites and challenging white authority The common view among whites was of the young black man with an Afro asserting himself and disputing racial apartheid with expressions of militancy ranging from the peaceful civil disobedience of Martin Luther King Jr to the calls for revolution of Malcolm X and H Rap Brown Among the black middle class people it became legitimate to ght for your full rights and rstclass citizenship Militant and to a large degree oppositional attitudes spread through the urban ghetto settling in some of the most entrenched and disenfranchised workingclass and poor communities were alienated young people were quick to act them out The unrest in activism had positive effect of encouraging white and authority to open up the system somewhat and make accommodations for the aspirations of blacks The combination of af rmative action setasides and fair housing facilitated the exodus of betteroff blacks from the ghetto The emerging black middleclass increasing gravitated to white neighborhoods and many innercity neighborhoods gradually undenNent process of transformation from allwhite middle and workingclass to racially mixed but still economically stable to allblack working class poor and destitute The black middle class was temporarily able to make halting peace with the wider white society while many of those residing in the increasingly isolated ghettos could not Although only a small segment of middleclass people actively participated in the race riots many whites were unable or unwilling to distinguish one class of black persons from another and stereotypes spread The distinctions blacks made among themselves often went unnoticed or were confused and almost any white person living in close proximity to blacks a inclined to place as much distance as possible between him or herself and them Great numbers of the young blacks who remained in the ghetto found themselves subject to poor schooling employment discrimination and powerful negative stereotypes all seriously diminished their human and social capital As a result they were unable to make an effective adjustment to the new economic realities and the innercity black community sank into entrenched structural poverty In order to survive residents created a thriving irregular underground and often illegal economy The crack cocaine trade offered a way to make money but entailed risks to individual and social health The violent crimes perpetrated by desperate addicts and greedy dealers reinforced deeply negative public images of the black urban ghetto The social costs of impoverishment are particularly hard on the heads of the young black men who were feared by the rest of society and left to fend for themselves by white authorities In his alienation and use of violence the contemporary poor young black male is a new social type peculiar to postindustrial urban America This young man is in crisis His social trajectory leads of from the communityto prison or cemetery or at least to a life of trouble characterized by unemployment discrimination and participation in what many are inclined to view as an oppositional culture which is how he goes about dealing with alienation from society The wider social system is deeply complicit in this scenario but it relates to the impoverished black male by stigmatizing and further marginalizing him informing him that he has no place in respectable society His plight has vast social and racial rami cations in the city on the bus trolley subway on sidewalks and street corners in newspapers in corporate of ces and boardrooms in grocery stores and shops in restaurants and taxis In many places of public accommodation the anonymous black male is too often feared and considered guilty until proven innocent and even that proof when demonstrated is not fully accepted People black amp white avoid him and the three weather avoidance behavior teach him that he is an outsider in his own society His image as bad and potentially dangerous is so strong that it spreads to anyone looking like him This stereotype has implications for black males even upper or middle class in education achievement social standing All males of color are referenced by the stereotype of bad boyf Systematic observations on trains show that the anonymous black male is often the last person others will sit next to Black men generally spend entire journeys seated alone unless the train is crowded and seating is scarce Black men of all social classes are avoided by most whites and some other blacks on public transportation The black male may put white people off just by being black and the young he is and more ghetto he looks the more distrust Many adopt the conception that white people generally dislikefear black people but especially black males As young black men talk amongst themselves each man has a story of police harassment or public discrimination in which strangers go to great lengths to avoid him Regardless of the degree to which it s true this belief leads the black male to develop his own sense of position in the wider society especially with whites Black men compare notes and develop elaborate strategies for managingavoiding arbitrary treatment and saving their self respect At times they attempt to turn the tables Sometimes they puff themselves up and adopt an offputting appearance displayed looks geared to make others uptight and determined to avoid them to reject the other rst Other blacks will also avoid anonymous young black males they are uncertain about though they d usually be better at guring out who s really a threat Upwardly black men would sometimes try to distance themselves from looking bad and associating with those people and that culture Parents teach their sons that to look talk or look like a bad black male is to be associated with him and suffer his stigma Many others embrace this to look hip and cool and get street cred It serves as an important defensive strategy for the black male who operates with a provisional status in whitedominated settings The poor innercity male is subject to even more ovenNhelming challenges The innercity economy at ground zero rests on 3 prongs 1 low wage casualized jobs that offer little continuity of employment and few if any bene ts 2 welfare payments including Aid to Families with Dependent Children and its successors food stamps and other government transfer programs 3 the informal economy with encompasses legal activities outside marketplace like bartering labor and goods among family and friends semilegal activities like small businesses out of home under the radar and illegal activities like drugs prostitution and street crime Until recently poor black people relied on all three ways of gaining income simultaneously Welfare checks and earnings from employment not only supplemented one another but provided capital and consumers for small businesses like braiding hair washing cars watching children If any of those elements is unproductive or doesn t deliver people are pushed to engage in the other two With the recent drastic reductions in welfare payments and the latest contractions in job opportunities for less educated workers many innercity residents increasingly relief on the informal economy The more desperate people become the more the underground economy becomes characterized by criminality and violence The marginalization of black inner city men by economy is exacerbated by the legacy of american racism Daily challenge of staying alive To avoid being killed as they navigate their way in public within the disenfranchised community they require personas with a street toughened edge This image becomes generalized supporting the stereotype Joblessness has deeper rami cations leading many young men to rationalize their involvement in illegal activities Jobs are very dif cult to obtain More and more people engage in irregular exchanges hustling and outright street crime in order to survive The jobs held by people living in the innercity qualifythem as the working poor Most of the available jobs pay little and provide few if any bene ts They are also insecure Encouraging participation in the informal economy These jobs don t generate enough income to get people out of poverty The inner city is frequently the scene of many irregular business ventures that fall close to the blurry line between legality and criminality A party host might sell dinner platters for six or seven dollars People routinely gamble on card games there People organize to gamble in homes in back rooms of bars and barbershops or on the street lllegal forms include playing the numbers dog ghts cock ghts and dice games Lottery is also popular The barter system works through the exchange of goods and services Yet paid back with a favor in the future Money earned is quickly spent Illegal activities include gambling robbery burglary fencing dealing drugs and loansharking Crime has taken up some of the slack left by the termination of government transfer payments and the contraction of wage earning from legitimate jobs High frustration levels in the community There is an observable connection between frustration levels and the number of robberies and assaults occurring on the streets Street justice Possession of guns gives immediate street cred which is why so many ghetto kids have guns Once he has a weapon the boy often carries it but likes to present himself as strapped Hunched or labored style of walking that sends the unmistakable message I m packing Young boys from decent families must learn to code switch Even in childhood these boys are often criminalized Police of cers guard the entrances and hallways of their schools If a youth is involved in an altercation disruption or disorder he often does not go to the principal s of ce but is handcuffed on the spot He gets an instant record By the time a black male gets out of school and approaches the job market he can t pass the background check or the drug test The employer then has a ready excuse not to hire dark skinned young males typically discriminating in favor of immigrants or young people from the suburbs Almost everyone around him is beset by problems and he is subject to these concentration effects as he grows up Instead of seeing adult males who are successful in family life and at work he is exposed to alternative role models who engage in drug dealing and other underground activities He has no contact with the wider society and real people not in his situation The black youth sees others similarly situated and naturally identi es with them He thrives in the company of his peers The big issue for them as having enough money The whole community is in the pit of poverty Even as a child the black male is subject to the remnants of suspicion that go along with that racial and gender position They must not sell out to the dominant culture but embraced their distinctiveness They may even confound street behavior with their black identity With every crime especially those that involve the time the wider society nds more reasons to distrust innercity men with dark skin Poverty becomes even more racialized and young black men are increasingly marginalized The trademark clothing styles of so many of these young men become attractive even to black men who are lawabiding and decent The look becomes institutionalized and its presentday adherents have no sense of why they wear what they wear or look the way they do But the wider society keeps careful notes on those displays taking them as the latest manifestation of the alienation born of a ghetto existence Innercity residents are rm in their belief that the public authorities do not care about what happens in their community When white people are robbed or assaulted and their homes are burglarized and the assailant is known to be identi ed as black every dark skinned man becomes suspect Every black male is approached like he has a de cit he has a hole to climb out of before he can be trusted as an ordinary lawabiding person Every news story that associates a young black man with a violent crime sent a message to everyone that reinforces the stereotype of class the dark skinned innercity male who is to be closely watched feared not trusted and employed only as a last resort Race becomes more inextricany intertwined with crime and violence and the public racial divide becomes ever more intractable Shawn Law student in Washington DC who grew up in Philadelphia Comes from the inner city but was able to attend private schools where he did very well and went on to college and a prestigious law school He and a handful of other black law students were the only nonwhite residents of the af uent neighborhood near to law school One evening he was waiting for a bus to go home He had groceries and books so he decided to take that bus Talking to his girlfriend on the phone as he waited when he noticed the police car drive slowly by It did it twice more Then again Third time the of cer pulled up behind him and sat for approximately 3 minutes with the car oodlight shining on the bus stall where Shawn was sitting Then Shawn was startled to hear a blowhard order for him to put his hands out where they could be seen and turn slowly toward the light He did it phone still in his hand As he turned toward the of cer who stepped out of the car he saw that the of cer was reaching for and drawing his gun Another law student white female he didn t know but was there also waiting for the bus yelled out for the cup that he s only holding a phone The of cer yelled at Shawn to drop the phone and he did He then told him to put his hands against the wall and not move handcuffed and frisked him Shawn asked what was happening explaining he s a law student waiting for the bus home The cop ignored him Bythen about 7 other police cars came and blocked off the street At the same time students and professors from his school started to form a crowd across the street seeing everything and he was humiliated No one said a thing to help him The police cursed him yelled at him to cooperate and he did as confused as he was They repeatedly kicked him in the legs forcing his legs more and more apart Kept pushing his face against the fall and down telling him to keep his head down and stop resisting He was frisked twice more and they took his wallet They dumped his school books and laptop from his bag on the sidewalk and also the grocery bags He was restrained by 3 of cers who held his handcuffed hands together with the slack from the back of his shirt and pants to prevent him from running They questioned him showing no respect When Shawn asked again what s up he was told he ts the description of someone involved in a shooting a few blocks away Then one cop radio crackled Black male 5 8 blue buttondown shirt khaki tan dress pants brown dress shoes The description t him exactly He thought he was going to jail After 10 minutes of being forced to stand straddled another radio announcement said the suspect was apprehended Shawn was uncured and told to have a seat Of cers just went back to their cars and drove off The original cop took his details for the police report trying to make small talk but Shawn was like nah A neighbor from nearby came up to the of cer and whispered loudly to the cop is this the guy no Then he offered to follow Shawn home to make sure The cop was all no Shawn later found out that the guy was actually the victim s roommate playing around and accidentally discharging the gun and HE WAS WHITE He realized the neighbors called the cops and provided HIS description They heard there was a shooting in the neighborhood and saw shawn living there for 3 years standing in the corner at night and called the police thinking it must be the black guy They stared at him every day and avoided eye contact as he walked by them on the sidewalk on his way tofrom law schooL The constant confusion between streetoriented and lawabiding black male means that all are subject to suspicion in white eyes and such a public reception then encourages many blacks not to trust whites Thus both blacks and whites assign provisional status to the other deepening the racial divide Outsiders see the tough stance adopted by the black male as hostile an indication that he has a chip on his shoulder against he outside world but it s a strategy to deal with adversity Toughen up and develop a negative view of the outside world As the young man engages in oppositional behavior as he celebrates his alienation he contributes to the stereotype of the angry aggressive young black male This stereotype enables employers police schoolteachers and others to respond with suspicion or even outright rejection to the dark skinned youth they encounter on the streets and public The image becomes a reference point against which every black man is understood in the public mind s eye as he either approaches it or distances himself from it All public interactions are negotiated and many are perilous The black man is downgraded and devalued regardless of how he approximates or differs from the stereotype So he enters the encounter with a de cit no matter what Whites feel justi ed in distancing themselves from him The young black male becomes invested in his outsides status and buys into it as an end in itself This dynamic makes his situation intractable